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Campfires, charcoal banned across Minnesota's national forests

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Campfires, charcoal banned across Minnesota's national forests
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Campfires will be banned in Minnesota's national forests starting Friday as conditions continue to be dangerous for wildfires across the northern half of the state.

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The Superior and Chippewa National Forests are prohibiting all campfires and charcoal fires and grills in all locations as well as banning fireworks in an effort to reduce human-caused fires. The restriction includes developed and remote sites, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also is increasing its fire regulations -- now banning all campfires in wooded areas on state-managed lands between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Fires also are banned in all remote areas on state lands.

Campfires on state and private land will be allowed only in developed campgrounds in fire grates from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., when conditions usually are cooler and damper, said Jean Bergerson, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids. The state also has banned outdoor welding in wooded areas, fireworks on public lands and any brush or debris burning.

Gas cook stoves and grills still are allowed on state and federal lands.

Northern Minnesota continues to see new wildfires every day, including larger fires on Wednesday near Grygla and Kelliher in Northwest Minnesota and Mizpah in Itasca County. Despite cooler temperatures, fires continue to spread rapidly across a region that has seen little precipitation for the past two months. Meanwhile, an entrenched Canadian high-pressure system continues to push very dry air into the Northland, making dead grass and leaves even more vulnerable to fire.

And there's little or no rain in the forecast for the rest of April, with warm, sunny and slightly windier days forecast for the coming weekend.

"It just keeps getting drier. There's no relief in sight," Bergerson said.

Firefighting aircraft from across the country continue to come to Minnesota to aid in the battle, as have ground crews from Michigan, Illinois and now Missoula, Mont.

"We're taking whatever help we can get," Bergerson said. "Our local crews are getting burned out running to so many fires and then having to work mop-up for days on some."

More than 870 wildfires have burned across more than 17,700 acres in Minnesota so far this spring.

John Myers is a reporter at the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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